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their home for the next six years, broken only by a seven months' visit to London (August, 1831-March, 1832) and a winter in Edinburgh (1833). Here some of Carlyle's best work was to be done. Of Craigenputtock itself and of Carlyle's reason for going there the reader may best judge from the following extract from a letter to Goethe:
CRAIGENPUTTOCK, DUMFRIES, 25th September, 1828.
You inquire with such affection touching our present abode and employments, that I must say some words on that subject, while I have still space. Dumfries is a pretty town, of some 15,000 inhabitants; the Commercial and Judicial Metropolis of a considerable district on the Scottish border. Our dwelling place is not in it, but fifteen miles (two hours' riding) to the northwest of it, among the Granite Mountains and black moors which stretch westward through Galloway almost to the Irish Sea. This is, as it were, a green oasis in that desert of heath and rock; a piece of ploughed and partially sheltered and ornamented ground, where corn ripens and trees yield umbrage, though encircled on all hands by moorfowl and only the hardiest breeds of sheep. Here, by dint of great endeavor we have pargetted and garnished for our
selves a clean substantial dwelling; and settled down in defect of any Professional or other Official appointment, to cultivate Literature, on our own resources, by way of occupation, and roses and garden shrubs, and if possible health and a peaceable temper of mind to forward it. The roses are indeed still mostly to plant; but they already blossom in Hope; and we have two swift horses, which, with the mountain air, are better than all physicians for sick nerves. That exercise, which I am very fond of, is almost my sole amusement; for this is one of the most solitary spots in Britain, being six miles from any individual of the formally visiting class. It might have suited Rousseau almost as well as his island of St. Pierre; indeed I find that most of my city friends impute to me a motive similar to his in coming hither, and predict no good from it. But I came hither purely for this one reason; that I might not have to write for bread, might not be tempted to tell lies for money. This space of Earth is our own, and we can live in it and write and think as seems best to us, though Zoilusi himself should become king of letters. And as to its solitude, a mail-coach will any day transport us to Edinburgh, which is our British Weimar. Nay, even
1 A Greek rhetorician of the fourth century, noted for his adverse criticisms of Homer. - ED.
at this time, I have a whole horse-load of French, German, American, English Reviews and Journals, were they of any worth, encumbering the tables of my little library. Moreover, from any of our heights I can discern a Hill, a day's journey to the eastward, where Agricola with his ans has left a camp; at the foot of which I was born, where my Father and Mother are still living to love me. Time, therefore, must be left to try: but if I sink into folly, myself and not my situation will be to blame. Nevertheless I have many doubts about my future literary activity; on all which, how gladly would I take your counsel! Surely, you will write to me again, and ere long; that I may still feel myself united to you. Our best prayers for all good to you and yours are ever with you! Farewell! "T. CARLYLE." "1
A few days before writing this letter-September 16- Carlyle, according to a note in his journal, had "finished a paper on Burns." The same letter contains the following paragraph, which, together with the passage quoted above, came to have the distinction, some two years later, of being quoted and commented upon by Goethe in his "Dedication and
1 Correspondence between Goethe and Carlyle, edited by Norton, pp. 124-126. Cf. interesting letter to De Quincey dated December 11, 1828, in Life of Carlyle by H. J. Nicholl.
Introduction to the Translation of Carlyle's Life of Schiller."1 "The only thing of any moment I have written since I came hither is an Essay on Burns, for the next number of the Edinburgh Review, which, I suppose, will be published in a few weeks. Perhaps you have never heard of this Burns, and yet he was a man of the most decisive genius; but born in the rank of a peasant, and miserably wasted away by the complexities of his strange situation; so that all he effected was comparatively a trifle, and he died before middle age. We English, especially we Scotch, love Burns more than any other Poet we have had for centuries. It has often struck me to remark that he was born a few months only before Schiller, in the year 1759, and that neither of these two men, of whom I reckon Burns perhaps naturally even the greater, ever heard the other's name; but that they shone as stars in opposite hemispheres, the little Atmosphere of the Earth intercepting their mutual light.”
Goethe's reply to Carlyle's letter contains these wise and appreciative words:
1 Appendix I. to the Correspondence between Goethe and Carlyle. In the "Dedication," etc. Goethe quotes also from the Essay on Burns a passage beginning, "Burns was born in an age," etc. (p. 9) to "a hundred years may pass on, before another is given us to waste" (p. 14), with the exception of a few sentences.
"With your countryman Burns, who, if he were still living would be your neighbor, I am sufficiently acquainted to prize him. The mention of him in your letter leads me to take up his poems again, and especially to read once more the story of his life, which truly, like the history of many a fair genius, is extremely sad.
"The poetic gift is, indeed, seldom united with the gift of managing life, and making good any adequate position.
"In his poems I have recognized a free spirit, capable of grasping the moment with vigor, and winning gladness from it."
We are beginning to understand, at last, how not only "neighborhood and early association" but the very inequalities of their opportunities served to bring Carlyle and Burns closer together. There are few finer examples of the supremacy of character through and over culture than that afforded by Carlyle, when, after his university training, such as it was, after his prodigious reading in history, poetry, and philosophy, unrivalled by that of any Englishman of his time, and covering the whole range of modern literature, French, German, and English, -after having earned from Goethe, the greatest living authority in literature, the high commendation of being one who "rested on an original foundation" and who